“I plowed the peas under,” said one of my farmer friends glumly at the market. “They weren’t doing anything but turning yellow.”
The farmers in stalls on either side nodded. One does rabbits commercially, and has a garden rather than a farm, but she added “Lost all the broccoli too.”
More nods all around.
Unfortunate as it is—for small-scale farmers who sell organic produce on weekends, this sort of thing can be a seriously blow in the wallet—I was at least glad to know that it wasn’t just me. I’d been wondering if I was the worst vegetable gardener in the world or if there was something wrong with the dirt I’d put in the raised bed or what.
Our spring here was bizarre and erratic—heavy rains and muggy heat were followed by hard frosts and chilly nights, over and over, until many self-respecting vegetables gave up the ghost. My daikons came out beautiful, sturdy, solid—and bolted immediately. Farmers—people who know what they’re doing and have been doing it for years—reported that anything that could bolt did. Of four kinds of peas that I planted, two died, and the best performers were from seeds I actually saved myself. (I am very proud of that, I admit!) None of them have actually had any peas on them yet, but they just started flowering, so we’ll see.
The carrot seeds took longer to germinate than they should have, and heavy rains washed them all down to the bottom of the beds, so I am now thinning a morass instead of a neat row. I am not optimistic about the beets, which took forever to come up (you usually can’t stop beets) and this lack of optimism increases when I see that the farmer’s market has people selling beet greens, but no roots.
Tomatoes and tomatillos are doing fantastic, though, and the squash has already flowered. We’ll see if they fulfill their early promise or if this means that we have 120 degree days all summer and everything keels over. (Frankly, I’ve given up predicting.)
The weeds, on the other hand, have been doing fantastic. Cold season weeds got started early, seeded hard, and then raised second and third generations. I’ve given up thinking that annual chickweed will ever be eradicated–now I just claim it’s a cover crop. The nice woman from the Extension office, who I usually find weeding the Pollinator Garden at the local co-op, told me that it was a bad year for winter weeds. (I feel better knowing this, even as I drag wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of mulch to smother the Japanese stiltgrass in what was supposed to be a mini-wetland.)
But this year, I have to say, the wildlife is showing up in droves. There are more native bees than I’ve seen in awhile, plenty of solitary wasps, and butterflies galore. The red-spotted purples are puddling all over the path, and I even had a zebra swallowtail stop into the yard a few days ago. (That’s a rarity around here.) The first hummingbirds zoomed through weeks ago, and the wrens are already building nests.
No monarchs, though. Well, they’re always uncommon in this neck of the woods, so I’m not worrying yet. And most of my sturdy perennials are being sturdy and perennial, just as they should be. Even those that tried to grow during the wild weather and were killed back to the roots are coming back strong. There was never such a year for Carolina allspice as this one—probably a hundred flowers on each plant, with their vague, complicated odor (baking bread? berries? bananas? all three) and I had to cut some branches down when they made a move at the deck.
Even the frogs are confusing me these days. They showed up in droves in spring, breeding everywhere, leaving slicks of eggs—and then one day they all vanished. I got panicky (not helped by finding a dead frog) that something had poisoned the pond and it was all my fault.
And then one day all fifteen or twenty showed up again.
And two days later they were gone again.
And now there’s three or four big ones sitting out there and I have given up tracking the habits of frogs.
There are lizards in the mulch and wolf spiders rolling balls of eggs, fat millipedes roaming the leaf litter, grosbeaks perched on the garden arches. The crawfish is still in residence—I see him dive into the hole occasionally when I walk by in the evening.
So even if my vegetables are frustrated and my frogs are confused, with the weather acting weird and the weeds running amok, we’re all still here. And that’s worth something.
Even if I do miss the daikons.
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